Dema Kovalenko's cubicle in the Galaxy locker room is right next to David Beckham's. Apart from that, the two midfielders have little in common.
Beckham, 35, earns $6.5 million a year from the Galaxy; Kovalenko, 33, earns $144,118.
Beckham is from England and his previous club was Real Madrid. Kovalenko is from Ukraine and his previous club was Real Salt Lake.
Beckham was sidelined for six months this season after suffering a torn left Achilles' tendon in March. Kovalenko was sidelined for three months this season after suffering a right hamstring strain in April.
Both players are back on their feet but, once again, there the similarity ends.
Last Saturday, in a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Crew, Kovalenko started the match, played all 90 minutes, effectively shut down the Crew's most dangerous player, Argentine playmaker Guillermo Barros Schelotto, and scored the game-winning goal.
Beckham played the final 20 minutes off the bench, got a yellow card within the first five of those minutes, and otherwise had no impact whatsoever on the outcome.
Logic would have suggested that the reporters who crowded into the Galaxy locker room after the match were there to talk to Kovalenko. Logic did not prevail. Kovalenko was virtually ignored while Beckham held court.
Still, Robert Warzycha, the Crew coach and former Polish international, recognized Kovalenko's contribution. This is what he had to say about the defensive midfielder with the intimidating bite to his game:
"Kovalenko was Kovalenko," Warzycha said, indicating both an appreciation for the player's hard-tackling, relentless style and a dislike of his sometimes over-aggressive nature and his penchant for "grabbing" and fouling.
Kovalenko took it all as a compliment.
"It's nice to hear, but that's what I do, you know," he said. "That's why I'm here. That's why [Coach Bruce Arena] brought me in — to disrupt plays. I love games like that. They make you better. They make you want to compete."
Kovalenko, in only his sixth appearance of the season because of the hamstring injury, did make an impact. He chased and harried Schelotto so much that the Argentine player was yanked from the game after 63 minutes, having managed two shots.
Schelotto, 37, was Major League Soccer's most valuable player in 2008, when he led Columbus to the MLS championship, and he has not lost a step.
"My job today was to watch Schelotto a little bit because he's the guy who can make a difference," Kovalenko said. "I love that. I liked the challenge. He said to me, you know, 'It's not a war. The game is not a war.' I said to him, 'My friend, it's a war. To me it's a war.'
"He's a good player. He's having a great season. Bruce was saying we had to watch him. That's my job. It's a challenge to me any time I play against a good player.
"I frustrated him. He doesn't like to get kicked. You can't give him any room. If you do, he'll hurt you. I was frustrated myself, too, because a couple of times I didn't touch him and he just goes down."
Eventually, Schelotto and the Crew capitulated. Kovalenko and company had won the day, leaving the field clear for Beckham to grab the postgame limelight.